As we try to navigate this COVID-19 pandemic, I believe you have to tip your cap to what the University of Central Arkansas football and volleyball programs have been able to do.
To add, UCA director of athletics Brad Teague deserves a tip of the cap as well.
Since March, there have been a lot of uncertainties about sports as a whole, and we’ve seen the NBA, NHL and MLB either restart or start their seasons without fans.
Though there seemingly were some poor decisions by some members of MLB teams, which caused numerous games to be postponed due to the spread of COVID, those three leagues have been able to continue and we’ll see if the NFL can follow in the footsteps starting Thursday.
But, at the collegiate level, questions have surrounded whether it was a good idea to continue with some sort of season or not.
With the Pac-12 and Big Ten choosing to postpone the start of its football seasons, and some conferences dropping nonconference play or choosing not to play at all, those questions didn’t go away.
Things seemed to be falling apart for UCA when the Southeastern Conference decided to drop nonconference games on July 30, which meant the Bears’ football matchup with the University of Missouri would no longer happen.
Then on Aug. 13, the Southland Conference announced it would postpone league fall competition.
The season was in danger, but then games started falling into place for football and volleyball.
Despite being left with one game on the schedule, which was 15 days after learning there would be no fall football season, eight more games have been scheduled, and there are some intriguing matchups on schedule.
Three Football Bowl Subdivision games were scheduled with one already being played last Thursday in a 45-35 loss to the University of Alabama-Birmingham.
On Sept. 19, the Bears will have a chance to follow up their Sept. 24, 2016 win over Arkansas State in a rematch against the Red Wolves in Jonesboro.
And then, the final FBS game on the schedule is a Nov. 21 game against the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
Being a native of Springfield, Missouri, I have an interest in the home-and-home with the Bobby Petrino-led Missouri State Bears.
But, it’s the Oct. 3 matchup against North Dakota State in Fargo, North Dakota, because I have wanted to see a game between these two schools since North Dakota State has been atop the Football Championship Subdivision.
Unfortunately, this matchup never happened in the playoffs and it won’t happen for this year’s FCS playoffs as other numerous conferences have decided against a fall football schedule.
Though the Bears have just two home games at the time, it is great that UCA still has games to play for its student-athletes.
Because of the scheduling, the Bears have had the unique opportunity to be the first team to play in the first two Division I college football games since 1917 when it opened the season Aug. 29 against Austin Peay and then played UAB on Sept. 3.
Not only has UCA played the first two games of the college football season, it has yet to record a positive COVID test, which is extremely encouraging that it has been able to do that, as well as showing that a season is possible.
Though these are just two games, many people thought getting football teams together for extended periods of time was a bad idea.
I hope they can continue to avoid positive cases as well as the other schools that are choosing to play football.
Also, UAB deserves a hat tip as they not only paid for UCA to test for COVID, but also to house the Bears for a week so they wouldn’t have to travel back to Arkansas to turn around and travel within a five-day span.
Now, for UCA volleyball, the Sugar Bears have been able to schedule numerous games despite what has happened, including also playing the first DI college volleyball game.
The schedule holds an old Southland Conference team in Texas State, matchups against Stephen F. Austin and Lamar, as well as in-state competitions against Little Rock, Arkansas State and the University of Arkansas.
It is incredible that these schedules have materialized.
I just hope that these schools whom are continuing to play prove people wrong about not being able to play right now.